What a week for individual performances.
Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones followed up lacklustre Week 1 performances to win plenty of matchups. Aaron Rodgers did what Aaron Rodgers does with a monster bounce-back performance. Austin Ekeler was used heavily in the passing game with nine catches on nine targets.
Just like we all thought.
Well, some of us.
Week 1 overreactions are almost always followed by a market correction, so maybe keep the hot takes to a low whisper instead of shouting them out to the world. It’s very unbecoming.
But hey, if people want to make it known that they think Robert Woods is washed or that Saquon Barkley suddenly became a bad running back, then be sure to seek them out and offer to take those “terrible” players off their hands. Do them that service, take that weight off them on this journey, almost like their Fantasy Sherpa.
And then crush them.
(All weekly rankings courtesy of Fantasy Data)
1. Cooper Kupp’s revelation
I will be the first to say that I thought that the biggest benefactor of Matthew Stafford heading to Los Angeles this off-season would be Robert Woods. Through the first two weeks of the year, it’s becoming apparent that I might be just a little bit off.
Kupp has been nothing short of brilliant in the first two weeks, compiling back-to-back top-10 weeks, including the top spot in this week’s finish. He has 21 targets which places him in a tie for fifth among wide receivers, 16 catches (tied for first) and 271 yards (third) with Stafford under centre and occupies a ridiculous 37.5 per cent target share.
It feels like every time the Rams get possession that Kupp is going to get an opportunity to score because he constantly looks like he’s wide open. Sean McVay is also unleashing Kupp out wide as opposed to the slot where he’s primarily been deployed from since his rookie year. That percentage of slot snaps has dropped from 73 per cent in his sophomore year in 2018 to 44 per cent through the first two games of 2021. Alpha wide receivers don’t play out of the slot and it seems as though the Rams have found their alpha receiver.
Kupp is going to have an off game here and there and I expect Woods is going eat a bit more into Kupp’s target share, but make no mistake about it, Kupp is going to have a monster year.
2. Derek Carr, the unlikely addition to the QB1 group
Great second quarterback.
Those have been terms used to describe Derek Carr’s fantasy relevance since coming into the league, but we might be seeing him turn a corner and maybe, just maybe, he’s actually as good as we’ve seen in the first two weeks.
It’s certainly early in the schedule, but it’s not like Carr has been up against cupcake defences to start. Baltimore’s D has playmakers and the Steelers basically shut down the Bills’ aerial attack in Week 1. He currently leads the league with 817 passing yards and has four touchdowns to one interception, while occupying the QB8 spot.
With the Dolphins on the docket next, it looks like another matchup that Carr can exploit, especially considering that this Raiders offence looks like it has some pretty good pass catchers outside of Darren Waller. Henry Ruggs appears ready to take the next step forward after not living up to the rookie hype of being a high first-round pick last year. Hunter Renfrow is a reliable slot receiver and Bryan Edwards has all the tools to become a good receiver at this level.
All this while the running game hasn’t been too great and Josh Jacobs is dealing with an injury. Carr is going to have to be on top of his game in the coming weeks as he gets the Chargers, Bears, Broncos and Eagles in the four games following Week 3's Dolphins game. By then, we should have an accurate assessment of where Derek Carr fits into the QB1 conversation.
Something tells me that this is for real.
3. The Mike Williams we’ve been waiting for
He’s had a 1,000-yard season and a 10-touchdown season, but both did not occur at the same time. We’ve been drawn in by his tantalizing talent and incredible ability go make absurd leaping catches, but we’ve never seen the consistency that warrants a regular spot in your lineup.
Enter new Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, with Williams in a contract year and you've got a recipe for success.
Lombardi talked up Williams in the off-season and is using him like he used Michael Thomas with the Saints. Justin Herbert even talked about his skill set and also wanting him to get the ball more.
We’re now seeing the fruits of these discussions.
Williams is currently the WR5 (tied with Amari Cooper) and has 22 targets in the first two games, parlaying those into 15 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. That’s the good stuff right there.
I, for one, have been a big proponent of Williams ever since he was drafted out of Clemson and I’ve drafted him basically every year he has been in the league, so this one feels good.
4. Brandin Cooks = Automatic
Cooks may be the most underappreciated fantasy player that we’ve seen in a long time. All he does is get the job done and his ADP almost never reflects his production at the end of the year.
Last season, Cooks was the WR17 in 15 games with 81 catches for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns on only 119 targets. In five of seven seasons (including his rookie year where he only played 10 games), he has accumulated at least 65 catches, 1,082 yards and five touchdowns. It’s a pretty impressive resume that probably doesn’t get enough credit, especially in fantasy.
The question now becomes, can Cooks still thrive with Davis Mills as the quarterback in Houston following the hamstring injury to Tyrod Taylor. What we know is that there isn’t a lot of competition for targets and that Houston is going to have to throw a lot in order to stay in games, so I will bet on Cooks getting plenty of looks and still manage to be in the WR2 or WR3 conversation going forward.
5. Teddy Bridgewater, the Wild (AFC) West’s newest gunslinger
In a division that includes Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, Denver needed to being to have success through the air to stand a chance to stay alive in the AFC West arms race.
Teddy Two Gloves was always perceived to be a dink and dunk type quarterback as evidenced by his Air Yards Per Target last season which had him near the bottom of the league for starting quarterbacks.
Something has changed.
It could be the poor competition faced so far as the Broncos took on the Giants and Jaguars, or it could be that Bridgewater has finally been unleashed.
Through the first two weeks, he sits fourth in Intended Air Yards behind Trevor Lawrence, Derek Carr and Tom Brady and fifth in Completed Air Yards behind Brady, Carr, Daniel Jones and Justin Herbert.
What we can deduce is that Teddy is slinging it early on. The Broncos offence has been very good through the first two games and gets a peach matchup against the awful Jets in Week 3. Teddy Bridgewater has become quite the fantasy asset in Denver with a plethora of weapons at his disposal and if they continue to let him sling it, we could really see him stay in the conversation as an every week starter and a back-end QB1 by the time the season is done.
6. The Cowboys RB timeshare…really?
One of the Cowboys running backs is RB12 and the other one is RB26.
My guess is that you’ve figured out that Pollard is the RB12 and Elliott is the RB26.
Yes, the above statement is accurate.
“It has to be because Pollard is making the most of limited opportunities though, right?”
Pollard has 23 touches compared to Elliott’s 31, so yes, Pollard is making the most of his opportunities (7.7 yards per carry and seven catches on seven targets), but the workload is a lot closer than it has been in years past.
Elliott just doesn’t look like nearly the same player that we saw two years ago and looks more like the player that we saw last year. So maybe this is just what he is at this point in his career. On the other hand, Pollard looks great seemingly every time he touches the ball.
You’re going to start Elliott every week, but now you’re going to have to start Pollard every week until we are given a reason not to. The thought process is that the workload going forward is going to look very similar to what it is now, but there’s also a chance that if Zeke doesn’t perform that we could see Pollard get even more looks as the season progresses.
7. The Patriots backs are relevant again
The best thing that happened to the Patriots running backs was to get rid of Cam Newton as the team’s signal caller and bring in a less athletic, more accurate passer in Mac Jones. That much has been evident over the first two weeks of the season.
Damien Harris has taken over as the lead dog in that backfield and established that he’s going to be the guy to get the bulk of the carries. We’ve also established that James White is back after a tumultuous season last year where he dealt with great personal loss and injury.
There is a very good chance with Jones at the helm that both Harris and White finish as top-30 running backs. Harris because of his workload and usage in the red zone looks like a virtual lock. For White, it comes down to how much usage he’s going to get in the passing game. With 13 targets (18 per cent target share) through two games, he’s on pace for 110 targets and if that holds up, he should be a great return on value, especially considering he was way down everyone’s draft board before the season started.
The Patriots look like they’re back to being the Patriots we had seen for so many years prior, except for, you know, that Brady character.
8. Is the Vikings duo of receivers now a trio?
It’s early in the season, we are all aware of that, but some times, some things happen that make you raise an eyebrow.
There was obvious hype surrounding Justin Jefferson after his incredible rookie season and even though plenty of people were down on Adam Thielen, he certainly didn’t become a bad receiver overnight. But nobody expected what we’ve seen out of the third member of what might now be a trio of good receivers.
KJ Osborn has been a revelation early on in the season for Minnesota, currently sitting at WR19 with 12 catches, 167 yards and a touchdown on 15 targets (18.5 per cent target share) and has been a great complement to the two great receivers ahead of him. The likelihood of this production is due to the injury of Irv Smith Jr., the lack of talent at the tight end position and Thielen and Jefferson drawing top coverages.
Jefferson and Thielen are going to get theirs, but Osborn is worth an add in deeper leagues, especially because we have to think that the Vikings are going to be throwing the ball a lot this season. If Jefferson and Thielen go down with injury, Osborn is an easy WR3 play but could even pay dividends as a high-risk, high-reward flex play with those two in the lineup.
9. Patience is a virtue with Hollywood Brown
There’s a very good chance that we overlooked Brown’s finish to last season where he was the WR13 from Week 12-17. Yes, he did have five touchdowns in that span and yes we know that is a fluke stat, but you know what, he’s been a touchdown machine since Week 5 of last year. In that stretch of 14 games he has 10 touchdowns, so he could just be on a hot stretch, but it’s worth noting.
Through two games this year, Brown is the WR8 with 182 receiving yards, two touchdowns on 16 targets and looks like he’s becoming a lock for your lineups every week. We know that some receivers take some time to adjust to the NFL game and Brown is probably that guy. It also helps that he’s becoming a focal point of the passing game (28 per cent target share) while rookie Rashod Bateman is on the sidelines and Mark Andrews has scuffled a bit out of the gate (eight catches for 77 yards) because this Ravens team is still going to need to have some success in the passing game to make a run in the AFC.
Hollywood has arrived.
10. The Weekly “Mike Tolbert Vulture Awards”
This is one of those rare occasions where a player vultures a touchdown and it was on a great play. Seals-Jones made the most of his lone catch, going for 19 yards and a touchdown but making a great grab in the corner of the end zone on a pass from Taylor Heinicke. I’m sure Logan Thomas managers were thrilled by this.
The Browns fullback not only vultured a rushing touchdown from both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but he also outscored Clyde Edwards-Helaire, James Conner, Nyheim Hines and was decimal points behind Jonathan Taylor, Alvin Kamara and Miles Sanders. Janovich’s two carries resulted in zero yards and a touchdown. Can’t make this stuff up.
Jennings is outscoring Brandon Aiyuk in fantasy scoring just like you all predicted. He had two catches for 17 yards and a score in the Niners win over the Eagles and followed up the San Francisco train of touchdown vultures after they doubled up on the award last week thanks to Trey Lance and Trent Sherfield.
This one was easily my favourite vulture line of the week. Williams was a pre-season sleeper to take away work from Clyde Edwards-Helaire (and even outscored him this week), but you’re not going to get very far with his line of three carries for -2 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 0.7 yards per carry and still outscored the RB1 on his team. I love fantasy football.